The Knesset .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
United Torah Judaism and the Likud confirmed on Tuesday that the two parties had agreed on a draft of their coalition deal and that the agreement could be signed on Wednesday.
According to the Likud negotiating team, the draft will be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the two councils of Torah sages of the UTJ faction for their approval.
The deal is likely to see UTJ MK Ya’acov Litzman in charge of the Health Ministry as the deputy minister as previously, while MK Moshe Gafni would chair the powerful Knesset Finance Committee and MK Meir Porush would be deputy education minister.
UTJ had presented the Likud with a list of 75 demands on issues of policy and legislation, although the precise details of the coalition agreement have not yet been disclosed.
It is thought, however, that the Likud has agreed to a demand to roll back cuts to welfare budgets, such as child benefit allotments. This was a central concern for the haredi parties, given the large number of children their families have and their high dependence on the state for income support payments, such as child welfare.
UTJ also demanded the repeal of the criminal sanctions clause of the conscription law, which criminalizes yeshiva students who refuse to perform military service.
This was a central reform of the last government, and it is not yet clear what, if anything, would replace the criminal sanctions in the law aimed at increasing haredi enlistment.
Other concessions which have reportedly been made to UTJ are an agreement to repeal or strongly alter the conversion reform law of former Hatnua MK Elazar Stern, and to revise a law which abolished marriage registration districts.
As revealed by Raviv Drucker in TheMarker on Tuesday, UTJ has also demanded a veto on all legislation pertaining to matters of religion and state, a return to the level of funding for yeshiva students enjoyed before the last government halved the budget for stipends for yeshiva students, and income support payments for yeshiva students, among other items.
Although the Likud and UTJ seemed poised to sign their coalition agreement, Bayit Yehudi and party chairman Naftali Bennett issued a warning on Tuesday that the party would not agree to join the government if some of their demands, including on religion and state, were not met.
“The Bayit Yehudi faction unanimously decided that the negotiations will continue only after the answers to the core issues in dispute in the areas of governance; laws of the judiciary, construction in Jerusalem, the distribution of portfolios in the government, and religious services,” the party said in a statement on Tuesday.
A Bayit Yehudi source told The Jerusalem Post that the party was not willing to allow all of the reforms made on matters of religion and state during the last government to be repealed by UTJ.
The source added that it had not agreed to any change to the law abolishing marriage registration districts or to the conversion reform law and that the party is still fighting to protect these laws.
Bayit Yehudi said it would also refuse to let a Shas MK be appointed religious services minister, as Shas has demanded, but would compromise by agreeing to a Likud MK being named to the postilion and both Bayit Yehudi and Shas taking deputy ministerial positions.
A source within the Yisrael Beytenu party went further, saying that the party would consider going to the opposition if the reforms on conversion, marriage registration, and haredi enlistment were repealed or gutted.
The source noted that Yisrael Beytenu has been extremely active on reforming aspects of religion and state over the last two governments, and in particular had insisted on greater haredi participation in military service.
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